Sunday, August 19, 2018 10:07 AM
Extensive damage has been inflicted upon protective thickets of trees planted around eleven communities in the Western Negev.
The continuing incendiary kite and balloon attacks in the Western Negev have also caused damage to lifesaving trees that KKL-JNF, with the help of its Friends worldwide, had planted as part of a security afforestation project designed to protect local residents.
Hundreds of acres of security plantings carried out in this part of Israel since the 1950s have now gone up in smoke due to incessant incendiary kite and balloon attacks from Gaza. KKL-JNF teams are working around the clock to mitigate the damage to these security trees by caring for them on a daily basis.
Extensive damage has been inflicted upon thickets of trees planted around eleven communities in the Western Negev in the 1950s to provide a natural protective screen between them and the Gaza Strip. In recent years these thickets have been fortified by many more lifesaving trees planted for this purpose with the help of KKL-JNF’s Friends throughout the world.
KKL-JNF Western Negev Recreation Area Coordinator Itzik Lugasi, who is in charge of the security plantings, explains: “These security plantings make an enormous difference. The trees conceal local communities and roads and make it hard for the terrorists to hit them directly. The camouflage they provide protects farmers from sharpshooters, and the army uses them for cover when necessary, too. What’s more, a missile fired at the area has a very good chance of hitting the trees first, and when it hits the ground they will absorb most of the shrapnel. When we planted trees along Route no. 25, I invited the father of Daniel Viflic, who was killed when an anti-tank missile hit his school bus in April 2011, to accompany us. He estimated that had there been trees at the site of the attack back then, his son would not have been injured.”
In recent weeks KKL-JNF has been investing a great deal of effort in reducing the harm done to these security plantings, and has been caring for the trees on a daily basis by removing the weeds that have sprung up around them and creating partitions within the plots. But the trees have sustained serious damage nonetheless, and a great many eucalypts, pines and broad-leaved trees – mainly acacias – have already been burned.
Lugasi says that rehabilitation of the damaged areas will not begin until winter. “We’re waiting for winter, for the rain, to see what recovers and what doesn’t. Wherever necessary, we’ll prepare the ground for fresh planting. I imagine that the adult eucalypts will recover. The young trees, together with large stands of pines that have been completely burned, will have to be cut down and the ground will need to be prepared afresh. Next time we’ll plant fewer pines: although they’re resistant to the arid climate of southern Israel, they’re highly combustible.”
“I know that the greenery will come back in the wintertime, together with the anemones, and that we shall win this battle for the trees. KKL-JNF has the strength, the power and the ability to replant – that is the essence of who we are, and we shall continue to do it,” he added.